The acute need for pesticides
According to estimates by United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO), up to 40 percent of crops cultivated each year are lost to pests. The financial impact of plant diseases on the global economy exceeds $220 billion, and that of invasive insects is a minimum of $70 billion. This significant loss threatens the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and food security and underlines the importance of pesticides that can mitigate the risk and help farmers to:
Every coin has two sides
On the one side, climate change has increased pest infestation and, therefore, increased the need for pesticides to control the threat to production. On the other hand, this highly beneficial range of chemicals can be extremely hazardous too.
Pesticides are essential for India’s Kharif season
The major agricultural seasons in India are Kharif (June to early November) and Rabi (November to March). During the Kharif season, spotted stem borer is among the most destructive pest, which results in yield loss of 26%-80% across different agro-climatic regions of the nation.
India has witnessed some serious pest/weed attacks:
- Fall armyworm destroyed almost the entire maize crop in the country in 2018
- Onion Weed devastated the onion crop in Maharashtra in 2019
- Cassava mealybug affected tapioca in south India (September 2020)
- Prolonged monsoon rains resulted in multiple severe pests infestation (mosaic virus, pink and American bollworm) and diseases in Maharashtra (August 2021)
- Thrips Parvispinous, a new species of insect, affected the chili crop in south India (December 2021)
The use of pesticides has played a crucial role in increasing major crop production threefold in India since 1960, making these chemicals an essential component in the race to feed the growing population of the world’s second most populous nation.
Caution is of utmost importance in the use of pesticides
Although the use of pesticides in small quantities is good, excessive usage is not better but hazardous for
1) The environment
- Excessive pesticide leaches into the soil and pollutes it
- It is washed by rain and enters the water cycle and contaminates the water
2) Humans and other living creatures
- These carcinogenic chemicals affect the human body's vital systems (nervous, reproductive, etc.)
- Acute health effects range from stinging eyes, rashes, and diarrhea, to blindness, dizziness, and even death
- Excess use of pesticides is a threat to pollinators such as insects and birds, which can tip the balance of the ecosystem and impact food production
- Pesticides can enter the food system and contaminate it
This makes it critical for us to be aware of the right use of pesticides.
Agritech innovations supporting the smart use of pesticides
After the advent of the green revolution, it is now time for Agritech to drive smart farming technologies to make farming more resilient, productive, and sustainable. For a farmer who is happy with the progress of their crops, an unforeseen pest infestation can be devastating. It ruins hopes of good produce and washes away all the investments made during cultivation.
So, it is critical to safeguard the growing crops. The first step to terminating a problem begins with identification. If pests are not identified and controlled swiftly, it could become challenging to eliminate them with suitable pest control methods.
The end results? Huge losses.
Timely use of pesticides is vital; achieve it through data-driven smart farming
Consider the option of a pest observed by a farmer and then an agronomist analyzing it and finally giving advice on using the right pesticide. This time-consuming process has the inherent disadvantage of high scope for spread. It is here that remote sensing offers the most valuable input for data-driven smart farming.
Using remote sensing, geographical information systems (GIS), artificial intelligence, satellite imagery, as well as images captured from the field using farming management apps or farmer engagement platforms and big data, companies like Cropin's Disease Early Warning Systems (DEWS) can monitor farmlands and predict possible pest infestation and diseases. Field staff can give alerts by sending pictures of pest infestation to agronomists who swiftly identify the pest and resolve the threat with advisories for farmers to control the spread. Not only is the process quick, but it is also highly cost-effective compared to the conventional field scouting method.
Use the right quantity of pesticides to practice sustainable agriculture
When farmers started using pesticides, they enjoyed the economic benefits as they effectively controlled pests and improved productivity. However, there was a gradual flip to overuse, which resulted in pests developing resistance to chemicals. There are also cases of limited benefits due to underuse.
To ensure an abundant yield with high nutrients and economic value, it is essential to educate farmers about the proper use of pesticides. This can be achieved by using Agritech to digitize data on farmers and farms. These farmers are provided advisories based on data-driven insights (on pests and disease infestation) on the type, the right time, and the quantum of pesticides required. With Agtech, damage control can be implemented at an early stage, with reduced use of input chemicals.
Agritech comes in handy to monitor safety
Field officers monitoring farm activities can use the mobile application to communicate the guidelines farmers must follow while spraying pesticides. They have real-time access to examine if farmers adhered to the safety protocols. These guarantees that seed production companies, farming companies, and agri-businesses involved in contract farming do responsible business by ensuring the safety of farmers.
The Agtech benefit for smarter informed decision-making
Agritech pioneer Cropin leverages technology to translate data to drive informed decision-making, resulting in smarter and more sustainable food production. Smart farming practices help farmers take control over the vagaries of nature and ensure livelihood stability.